Augenstein Superb As UF Snuffs Out Buckeyes

Sitting at home in Sebastian last June while his Florida teammates were marching toward the NCAA championship game was the toughest time of Bryan Augenstein's life. He was a seldom-used freshman pitcher and when the time came for Coach Pat McMahon to select the roster to travel to Omaha he didn't make the cut. So he watched the College World Series on television and contemplated what he would have to do in 2006 to be an impact player rather than a spectator at crunch time.

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"Obviously I didn't do enough to put myself in a position to make that roster," said Augenstein, who pitched 16 innings in nine appearances for the Gators in 2005.

The disappointment of 2005 has become the fuel for motivation in 2006. The nervous freshman who posted a 7.88 ERA last year is now the poised sophomore who can pitch his way through adversity and give the number one-ranked Gators plenty of quality innings. Saturday, he raised his record to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.52 in seven and one-third innings, leading the Gators to a 10-3 win over Ohio State before a crowd of 3,940 at McKethan Stadium in the Pepsi Baseball Classic.

Augenstein gave up eight hits while pitching his way out of two early jams to help the Gators bounce back from Friday night's 14-5 shellacking at the hands of Missouri. He struck out a career-high ten batters in his third start of the season, all of which have lasted at least seven innings. He expects to get deep into the game every time he takes the mound.

"I hope to throw a complete game every time I go out there," he said. "I really trained hard in the fall and the spring to put myself in position to throw as many pitches as I need to every game."

Augenstein admits that much of the improvement this season can be attributed to the confidence he has in his teammates and the confidence they have in him.

David Cash connects (Tim Casey)
"The big thing coming in as a freshmen is that they [teammates] don't know what you can do out there," he said. "I didn't have a lot of confidence behind me last year. This year I've been showing them what I can do. My coaches are believing in me this year and I have a lot of confidence in my teammates. It's a lot better than it was last year. It was a big learning experience for me."

Even though it's early in the season, he's proven to Florida Coach Pat McMahon that he's grown up since last season. He's struck out 23 and walked only two batters in 22-1/3 innings and he hasn't gotten rattled when he has to pitch from the stretch with base runners in scoring position.

"What I was very proud of today was he pitched through adversity, he pitched through some runs, he pitched through some defensive flaws," said McMahon. "When you can do that and not overthrow and you can continue to get ground balls and work that's a good sign and a very positive sign."

It was Augenstein who kept the Gators in the game early when they were struggling to find some offense. The Gators got a single run in the first and another in the fourth without the help of a base hit. Augenstein pitched his way out of a first and second, no-out jam in the second inning with a pair of strikeouts and a harmless grounder, and he got a strikeout and a pop fly to left field in the third to pitch his way out of a one-out, first and third jam.

After maneuvering his way through those two tough innings, Augenstein settled down to mow down nine of the next ten batters he faced.

Florida's offense, shut down by Missouri's Max Scherzer Friday night, finally awoke in the fifth when the Gators got their second and third hits of the game but no runs. In the sixth, they broke through for three hits and two runs. David Cash and Matt Gaski delivered back-to-back run-scoring singles to increase Florida's lead to 4-0.

Ohio State countered with two runs in the seventh off Augenstein, only one of which was earned. Singles by J.B. Schuck, Wes Schirtzinger and Jacob Howell and a Florida error helped the Buckeyes cut the Gators' lead in half but Augenstein came through with a clutch strikeout of Eric Fryer with runners on second and third to end the threat.

Florida countered the Buckeyes' rally with a five-run seventh that was highlighted by a run-scoring singles by Cash and pinch-hitter Greg Quatrino and a dagger to Ohio State's heart in the form of a three-run homer to the bleachers in left field by Adam Davis.

Adam Davis circles in after blasting a HR (Tim Casey)
Augenstein tired in the eighth. He gave up a leadoff single to Ronnie Bourquin then hit Adam Schneider before settling down to notch his tenth strikeout of the game when he whiffed Schuck. An infield single to Jedidiah Stephen loaded the bases for Ohio State and finished Augenstein for the day. Florida brought on Josh Edmondson who struck out Jason Zoeller and induced Schirtzinger to ground out to end the threat.

Florida added its run in the bottom of the eighth when Gavin Dickey doubled, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single to left field by Austin Pride.

Getting a quality start out of Augenstein was critical for the Gators who were at their worst Friday night but equally important was for Florida to bounce back with some offensive output. The Gators got a lot of help from the bottom of the order where Cash and Matt Gaski each came through with three hits and Austin Pride, starting in place of the injured Matt LaPorta, who missed his second straight game, had a two-hit performance.

"Guys are stepping forward and that's exactly what has to happen for us to continue to be a good ball club," said McMahon. "We're a long way away from that and we know that. There are some guys who are pressing in some ways but the work ethic is there and we'll just continue to work hard to improve."

The Gators committed four errors Saturday and they've booted the ball nine times in the last two games, an area of concern for McMahon.

"It's a major concern," said McMahon. "And what types of errors … when you look at errors there are different types of errors. For example errors late in the game when you have to complete and make plays are different than errors that are tough plays that you're probably not going to be there. We have to work to be a good defensive club."

With the win, the Gators improved to 8-2. Florida will finish out the Pepsi Baseball Classic Sunday at 2:30 p.m. when they face Wake Forest at McKethan Stadium. Ohio State will face Missouri at 10 a.m.

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